SUFFOLK is one of the first counties in the UK to be hit by a disease that has devastated ash trees in Europe.

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The Woodland Trust has confirmed ash dieback has been discovered in mature and ancient trees at Pound Farm, near Great Glemham.

The Forestry Commission was yesterday at the 89-hectare site investigating the extent of the disease, which has also been found in Norfolk.

Ash dieback – or the Chalara fraxinea fungus – causes leaf loss and crown dieback and can lead to tree death. It has already wiped out 90% of ash trees in Denmark.

There are fears, expressed by the Woodland Trust, that if no action is taken the disease will wreak the same kind of damage as Dutch elm disease in the 1970s.

The trust has called on the Government to ban the import and movement of all ash trees for planting until the extent of the outbreak, and its source, is clear.

Andrew Sharkey, head of woodland management for the Woodland Trust, said: “Losing ash within the UK landscape would have serious implications to both the ecology, culture and landscape of our countryside. This is yet another example of why the protection of our native trees, natural resources and eco-systems needs to be at the top of the agenda and we need a step change in the level of importance placed on bio-security to tackle the bigger issue. The occurrence of tree diseases in the UK is becoming far too frequent and once they are established we are often powerless to act.

“We are potentially facing the ash equivalent of Dutch elm disease, and unless we take serious measures as a country we will continue to see problems arising from imported diseases.

“If this was a case of foot and mouth there would be immediate emergency measures put in place to deal with it.

“We need an emergency task force or summit set up by Government immediately to help deal with current threats and to stop any future threats before they arrive in the UK.”

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